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(LEAD) Former Park aide admits to leaking secrets to Choi

All News 18:05 January 18, 2017

(ATTN: UPDATES with details of hearing in last 4 paras; RECASTS para 5)

SEOUL, Jan. 18 (Yonhap) -- A former aide to President Park Geun-hye admitted Wednesday that he leaked classified information to her friend who is at the center of an influence-peddling scandal, claiming that he only intended to help the president.

Jeong Ho-seong made the argument at the Seoul Central District Court where he stood trial on charges of divulging confidential information to Park's confidante Choi Soon-sil.

"I generally acknowledge the charge against me and my statements made to the prosecution," he said. "But I was simply trying to assist the president."

Jeong Ho-seong arrives at the office of a special prosecutors' team in southern Seoul on Jan. 10, 2017. (Yonhap)

Jeong Ho-seong arrives at the office of a special prosecutors' team in southern Seoul on Jan. 10, 2017. (Yonhap)

The scandal that led to the president's impeachment centers on allegations that Choi colluded with Park to extort money from conglomerates and control state affairs behind the scenes.

Jeong is accused of conspiring with Park in e-mailing or delivering 47 documents classified as official secrets to the woman who never held a post in government. Choi also received drafts of some speeches that were to be delivered by Park and made corrections to them. The former aide has said he provided the documents so as to get broader feedback.

"It's true that the president told me to listen to Choi's opinions and incorporate them when necessary," Jeong said. "But she did not specifically order me to send this or that document."

Defending Park, he added that the president was trying to go the extra mile to skillfully run state affairs.

"I, too, was doing my best to assist the president even in the smallest way," Jeong said. "It breaks my heart to hear that I colluded with her."

Jeong is a member of the so-called "doorknob trio" who are believed to have had the most intimate access to the president.

According to the prosecution's investigation records, Jeong admitted that the documents found on a tablet PC owned by Choi were sent by him. Choi insists the computer is not hers, and that she does not know how to use one.

He also told prosecutors that the president ordered him to seek Choi's opinion on her choices for top government officials at the start of the administration in 2013.

"When Choi gave her opinion, I reported it exactly to the president. Whether Choi's opinion was taken into account was completely up to the president," he said in the records disclosed at the hearing.

Jeong and Choi exchanged 1,197 text messages and 895 phone calls in between late 2012 and November 2013, the prosecution said.


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